Friday, October 25, 2013

A Positive Self-Image Is Not Just For Girls

"You don't like any pictures you take of yourself," my little six year-old son said to me.  We were on the bumpy bus ride home after spending two hours running through fields, catching bugs, and pretending to be part of the local wildlife at the Ogden Nature Center.  After helping keep track of 30 curious 1st graders I thought the drive home would be the easy part of the trip.  I was wrong.  
After several attempts to take a portrait of the two of us, my heart sank at hearing my son's observation.  "You don't like any pictures you take of yourself."
 


"It's not you.  It's me," I said.  Cringe.  Did I really just say that?

"You look great in all the pictures," I continued.  But see, first I didn't know I had it zoomed in so close.  And then my hair looked messed up in this one."  While that might be true, it didn't account for the 15 others where the angle of my face (to me) made my cheeks look even bigger or my chin even more pointy, my jawline too angular...

I saw his little pout.  Ironically, I was ruining this trip by trying to capture a keep sake of how great it had been, which even in mind I recognized as "All Or Nothing Thinking" AGAIN...

Fast forward to a week later, when after trimming myself some bangs I attempted to taking another self-pic.  I guess I didn't realize how many clicks had gone by and photos I'd checked and deleted.

"You don't like any pictures you take of yourself."  Again, I felt my heart hitting the floor of my stomach.

"It's not that I don't like them," I white-lied, "It's that I just want to look my best, and that's not my best smile."  What stupid lesson was I teaching?  And why?  Just to try to "keep up with the Joneses" of women who have lost all the baby weight and still look like they are in high school?  I've been through this with myself already!

Looking at myself in that digital preview screen I saw a mother that was teaching her son to expect way too much of himself and to not settle for less than his own best version of perfect.  That was not what I wanted.

"I'll take your picture, Mommy."

"OK."

I handed him my camera and smiled, knowing the lighting from his angle wasn't very bright and that I wasn't even facing the right way.  But I smiled big and brightly for my little boy.

A hug and a thank you later he said  "Your welcome, Mom.  Now can we go play scooters?"

It isn't enough to just not have beauty magazines on display in your home or be careful with the media you let in.  It isn't enough to just tell your daughters they are beautiful regardless of their coloring or size.  Our boys need to hear it too.  It isn't enough to just not talk about how you feel fat or want to lose a couple pounds when you around the kids.  We need to be examples.  We need to feel happy and recognize our beauty. We need to watch our actions.  We need to smile big, laugh hard and enjoy and capture the moments for what they are, not because of how good we look in a picture.
Most of all we need to remember we are ALWAYS teaching something because our little ones are ALWAYS watching.

I love these unedited pictures and thanks, Michael, for that last one.

Love, Eva

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

So Many Kinds of Beautiful...What I Hope I Can Teach My Daughter (And Remember Myself)

My biggest fear of moving back to Utah is the vanity that's there and getting sucked back into that vain mentality.  Don't get me wrong.  I  love a lot of things about Utah.  The mountains.  The family and friends I have there.  But I've definitely not missed all the liposuction and breast enhancement billboards that saturate the valley (Boise doesn't have any of those.)  I don't look forward to explaining to my daughter that some people spend 1000's of dollars on trying to change the way they look, not because of a valid health concern or reconstructive surgery, but because they want to look better in a swimsuit.

Then I remembered a moment I had the other day in my garden.  I was looking at these little flowers and thought...


What if those little purple flowers, that I LOVE, wished they looked like a rose?  That would make me sad.  I love those little beautiful purple flowers.  They are beautiful just the way they are.  This rose is beautiful just the way it is too.  I didn't edit the colors at all because I wanted to keep its natural beauty.  Neither flower is better than the other.  They are both beautiful to me, just different. 

Sometimes different flowers have the same colors.  There are my little purple flowers and these...To me neither is better.  Both are beautiful.

Or sometimes the same flowers are portrayed slightly differently in art.  People might individually have preferences over landscape or portrait formatting, but they are both still beautiful.  A running joke my husband and I have is how my hair should look.  I regularly ask him his preference on length and color and he always says he doesn't care because it doesn't make a difference to him.  This has made me CRAZY, but now I get it.  To him long or short, darker or lighter, whatever!  It's still beautiful.


My son Michael came to watch me editing.  I liked some of these photos cropped off-center.


Or not showing their edges.


He liked them centered and uncropped.  Again, more kinds of beautiful.


Then he saw these editing tools and REALLY thought the flowers looked beautiful! LOL


I suppose you could say editing these photos is similar to the physical editing we do with plastic surgery.  But it's not.  This is free and changed with a click, maybe equal to dying ones hair.  Not equal to going into debt or taking on a part-time job to cover the 1000's of dollars of monthly payments of a tummy tuck or enhancement job.


 I realize some people do it for confidence, and it's not my place to judge.

I would have them consider though, there are so many kinds of beautiful...


Some people want to look like everyone else because they think looking like everyone else is better.  
But God already made you just the way he wanted.  He wanted us to all look different because we ARE different.  The difference is in the details of our character and soul and that's reflected through our eyes, smile and love.


Some of us are just starting to bloom.


Others are still waiting to.  Actually, I think parts of all of us still have yet to bloom.  That is beautiful too.


Some of us have personalities that like to be easily visible, high and right in people's line of vision.

Others would prefer to lay low, slightly hidden, but they are still beautiful too.
Some might say there's nothing spectacular about these planter boxes filled with tulips and pansies but I thought they were worth taking pictures and writing about.  I thought they were beautiful.

And they are obviously bringing a lot of joy to my daughter too.  And I hope I can teach her to never want to change this or enhance that, because that would mean that she is just her body.  And she is so much more than her body.  Her body is simply the vessel for her creativity, compassion, spontaneity, and crazy-happiness.  Why should she want to look like everyone else when she isn't everyone else?  She is beautiful just the way God and I made her.


As my favorite classic mormonad says "Be your own kind of beautiful."  This flower is unedited.  Yes, it is not perfect.  It is not as glamour-shopped as some photos of flowers are in calendars and framed art.  But it is still a lovely, stunning creation of God, and it is beautiful.  Just like you.
 'Till Tomorrow!  Luv, Eva

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Four Thoughts That Brightened My Darkness

I'd like to preface the sensitive nature of this post with something my daughter said this morning...

Sophia: Mommy, do you like this dress? (pointing to a picture in a catalog)
Me: Yeah, it's pretty cute.
Sophia (said completely casually as she continued to peruse in her sophisticated-seven year-old fashion): I'll buy it for you.
Me (smiling and saying in my head): It's the thought that counts.

She has no idea how much that dress costs, how many hours of chores she would have to suffer through to earn the money- the whole nature of what it would take is beyond her.  But knowing she would like to buy it for me warmed my heart.

I have had many friends this year express sadness at severe loss and challenges.  For many it's been related to infertility or miscarriages.  I cannot say I know exactly how this feels.  I do not know the precise kind of excruciating pain many of you had endured this year.  I hope that if my words don't quite measure up to the comfort you are looking for, that you will perhaps think "It's the thought that counts."  And I hope you know that I am thinking of you.

Though I haven't lost a child, I have felt sadness down to my core.  I felt inadequate as a woman when I could no longer breastfeed because I had to take stronger anti-depressants.  I felt frustrated and angry with the Lord, "Why would he let me be so mentally sick that I couldn't breastfeed my own baby and enjoy that blessing of bonding with them?  I want to feel happier.  So why can't I?"  I have felt like I didn't want or deserve my body.  I felt like something was wrong with me because I didn't naturally love being a mother like all the women around me seemed to feel.  I have felt left out.  I had a child on either side of me but I often felt alone.  Then I felt more guilt for feeling this way.

I will say I have felt a heavy sadness and longing for more children now that I am over a lot of my depression.  I wish so badly I could see the face of what another daughter or son might look like, but I am left wanting.  My husband and I have prayed about it again and again and the answer is no.

I have broken free from much of this mourning by remembering 4 truths that I want to share with anyone who will listen.  They are my gems and rubies and perhaps this is why I haven't shared them sooner (though I should have since many of you have asked for ideas that could help.)  I felt inadequate to shoulder that burden with you.  But like Spencer J. Condie said, "Discouragement and its fellow travelers of depression, despair and hopelessness are much like the proverbial rocking chair; they keep us busily occupied, but do not take us anywhere."  I would not want anyone in that rocking chair if there was a chance I could help them out.  I am not a therapist or counselor.  I am just what has brought light into my midnights and joy within my pain.  Perhaps they can bring you hope too...  

1) You are God's child.  He loves you and is with you.  (If you are too angry or bitter to hear about this right now skip to #2)
You are never alone.  I know this.  Unlike Jesus who did suffer without the strength of His Father for a time, we do not have to endure that level of pain.  It might feel like it sometimes.  You might feel your heart hurt so badly you wonder if it will explode.  I know I have cried and wailed in shame at my own weaknesses and misfortunes.  But even in that moment of sadness He loved me and He loves you.  He loves the mess you are.  You are his child.  Just as we see the sadness of a child who might want something but can't have it right away but we still love them and the desires they have, He sees us for all the desires we have too.  And IT IS the thought that counts.

In a speech entitled "And a Little Child Shall Lead Them" President Packer told the following true stories..."Long ago a woman tearfully told me that as a college student she had made a serious mistake with her boyfriend. He had arranged for an abortion. In due time they graduated and were married and had several other children. She told me how tormented she now was to look at her family, her beautiful children, and see in her mind the place, empty now, where that one child was missing.

If this couple understands and applies the Atonement, they will know that those experiences and the pain connected with them can be erased. No pain will last forever. It is not easy, but life was never meant to be either easy or fair. Repentance and the lasting hope that forgiveness brings will always be worth the effort.

Another young couple tearfully told me they had just come from a doctor where they were told they would be unable to have children of their own. They were brokenhearted with the news. They were surprised when I told them that they were actually quite fortunate. They wondered why I would say such a thing. I told them their state was infinitely better than that of other couples who were capable of being parents but who rejected and selfishly avoided that responsibility.

I told them, “At least you want children, and that desire will weigh heavily in your favor in your earthly lives and beyond because it will provide spiritual and emotional stability. Ultimately, you will be much better off because you wanted children and could not have them, as compared to those who could but would not have children.”

Still others remain unmarried and therefore childless. Some, due to circumstances beyond their control, are raising children as single mothers or single fathers. These are temporary states. In the eternal scheme of things—not always in mortality—righteous yearning and longing will be fulfilled.


Even if you are alone in your home and feel like no one understands what you are feeling, God does. Sometimes just remembering that helps.

2) God has a plan for your Salvation.
You are divine.  You are not trash.  You are not some fast food meal.  God is making you into something exquisite, heavenly, incredible and perfect and that takes time.  It takes challenges.  "Even Joseph Smith could not have been perfected without persecution."  Your trials were chosen to develop you for Salvation.  That is not going to be easy.  But because God loves you so much He will not let you suffer for a moment longer than what is necessary for your growth. (If you are not in the mood to hear more about this go to #3.)

Elder Richard G. Scott gives one of the most tender, moving speeches on loss titled "Trust In the Lord."  I HIGHLY recommend watching it.  He says...

It is so hard when sincere prayer about something we desire very much is not answered the way we want. It is especially difficult when the Lord answers no to that which is worthy and would give us great joy and happiness...It is hard to understand why our exercise of deep and sincere faith from an obedient life does not bring the desired result.

When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? Willing sacrifice of deeply held personal desires in favor of the will of God is very hard to do. Yet, when you pray with real conviction, “Please let me know Thy will” and “May Thy will be done,” you are in the strongest position to receive the maximum help from your loving Father...

To exercise faith is to trust that the Lord knows what He is doing with you and that He can accomplish it for your eternal good even though you cannot understand how He can possibly do it. We are like infants in our understanding of eternal matters and their impact on us here in mortality. Yet at times we act as if we knew it all. When you pass through trials for His purposes, as you trust Him, exercise faith in Him, He will help you. That support will generally come step by step, a portion at a time. While you are passing through each phase, the pain and difficulty that comes from being enlarged will continue. If all matters were immediately resolved at your first petition, you could not grow. Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love. 

 

3) Life IS Eternal
If you are so hurt and bitter that you do not feel God loves you and you do not care He has a plan for you, this truth might still help.  This is where my turning point has always come.  There have been times I have not wanted to trust any longer in whatever plan God had for me because I was emotionally exhausted, crushingly disappointed, and empty of faith.  I was done.  And if it weren't for knowing this truth I probably would have taken my life.

I have always been blessed by loving family and friends, but the battle for light and happiness ultimately occurs in one's one mind.  It is up to each of us to cast out the darkness of fear by replacing it with the light of truth.  And even if sometimes it's hard to believe in my individual worth as a child of God, or in the winding path He has for me, I do believe there is life after this one.

Life is eternal.  The end of a heartbeat here is the start of that life elsewhere.  Life cannot be stilled or silenced permanently.  For the depressed person this reality is at first cruel.  Ending the pain won't really end it?!!  I will still feel this sadness and have to deal with it even if I prematurely go to the next world?!  However, small children do not choose to do this.  A miscarriage is either the Lord's careful choice or simply the effect of having a mortal body.  There are many challenges that come because of mortality, even the mental illness people suffer, but that will not be the case in the next life.

Regarding infertility specifically, the prophet Brigham Young said...

Many of the sisters grieve because they are not blessed with offspring.  You will see the time when you will have millions of children around you.  If you are faithful to your covenants, you will be mothers of nations...And when you have assisted in peopling one earth, there are millions of earths still in the course of creation.  And when they have endured a thousand million times longer than this earth, it is only as it were the beginning of your creations.  Be faithful, and if you are not blest with children in this time, you will be hereafter. 

 

If you know life is eternal, suddenly some of the biggest challenges don't seem quite as daunting because they are temporary.  This life is just a tiny knot on the ever unwinding string of time as the kite it is tethered to flies higher and higher into the heavens.  This moment, though painful and real, is so small in comparison to the vastness of the eternities.

Personally, believing life is eternal has let me remember that my children will get to know my Dad and how he really is, funny, hands-on, always learning and joking.  Knowing this has meant that even though I don't have the time now to compose symphonies or dance and share my testimony through movement, I will get to perform more in the next life (I can't imagine what kind of stage and lighting effects they will have there!)  Keeping an eternal perspective means I will be the mother of more children someday, and I will see their faces and know all about them and we will grow as a family in the eternities together (and this helps me enjoy my days here a little bit more.)  Knowing that life is eternal gives me hope to endure with faith until that day when I am no longer bound by this body's limitations.

And if that isn't humbling enough, remembering God loves you and is always with you, that He has a plan for your salvation, and that your existence and life is eternal, remember this...

4) "The Son of Man hath descended below them all.  Art thou greater than he?"

This quote comes from verse 8 of section 122 of the Doctrine and Covenants.  For those of you who do not know, the Doctrine and Covenants is a book of revelations from God given during the 1800s to the first few latter-day prophets.  As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday-Saints, we believe God still speaks through prophets to all of His children, including these tender words...

 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
 If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;

 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. 


I will never be asked to suffer as much as the Savior did.  That kind of pain is untouchable.  And if he, the Son of God, told the Father, "Thy will be done," how can I question God?  How can I begin to think I know better?

In Elder Holland's inspiring talk "Lessons From Liberty Jail" he uplifts us by saying...

Everyone, including, and perhaps especially, the righteous, will be called upon to face trying times. When that happens we can sometimes fear that God has abandoned us, and we might be left, at least for a time, to wonder when our troubles will ever end. As individuals, as families, as communities, and as nations, probably everyone has had or will have an occasion to feel as Joseph Smith felt when he cried from the depth and discouragement of his confinement: “O God, where art thou? … How long shall thy hand be stayed … ? Yea, O Lord, how long shall [thy people] suffer … before … thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?” (D&C 121:1–3).
Whenever these moments of our extremity come, we must not succumb to the fear that God has abandoned us or that He does not hear our prayers. He does hear us. He does see us. He does love us. When we are in dire circumstances and want to cry, “Where art Thou?” it is imperative that we remember He is right there with us—where He has always been! We must continue to believe, continue to have faith, continue to pray and plead with heaven, even if we feel for a time our prayers are not heard and that God has somehow gone away. He is there. Our prayers are heard. And when we weep He and the angels of heaven weep with us. 


Fear and faith cannot coexist.  Light and darkness cannot share the same space.  One must out power the other.  We, our own thoughts, must out power the other.  It is allowing the Spiritual man to overcome the Natural man.  It is not always easy.  There are days I start asking "Why?" but then I remember what He said..."...know thou,my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?"

All 4 truths are recapped in those sentences.  1) God calls us His son (or daughter.)  2) He tells us these challenges are part of His plan for us, to give us experience and lead to our salvation.  3) Because life is eternal, all these things can be for our good and lead to our exaltation. 4)  Art thou greater than he?  

I still remember singing Robert Gardner's "My Kindess Shall Not Depart From Thee" with a choir when I was 18, whose lyrics are taken largely from the previous scriptures.  (I will include the lyrics at the end of my post for you to read, but the video is below.)  These words are overwhelmingly powerful anyway, but to music...there are no words to describe the feelings I get hearing this song.  On my hardest days all I have to do is remember one or two lines and its empowering melody and I am strengthened.  I hope it strengthens you and reminds you that the Lord is with you, that not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without Him knowing.  And He knows you deeper than you know your best friend, because He created you, raised you in pre-mortal life, and knows all of your thoughts, pains and desires now...please let His words comfort you.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zq-KhxsUxNo

I wrote this post because I owe it to myself to write and remember what I've learned during the challenging recent years I've faced.  I hope it's a record for my posterity.  And I hope remembering these 4 thoughts helps them have more light and faith in their life.  If anyone else finds hope in these truths it will have made the pain I've endured all the more worth it.

I would like to end with a quote from an October 1959 Conference report...

One of the most urgent present-day needs is to house clean our thinking.  Because two opposites cannot co-exist in the mind at the same moment, the best way is to get rid of the undesirable thoughts is by antedoting them with good.  The best way to get darkness out of a room is to fill it with light.  The best way to kill the negative is to cultivate the positive, and the best way to improve our lives it to improve our thoughts.


Clearly, it really is the thought that counts.

'Till Tomorrow!  Luv, Eva

My Kindness Shall Not Depart From Thee

Text and Music by Rob Gardner

For a little while 
Have I forsaken thee; 
But with great mercies will I gather thee. 
In a little wrath I hid my face from thee 
For a moment. 

But with everlasting kindness will I gather thee, 
And with mercy will I take thee 'neath my wings, 
For the mountains shall depart, 
And the hills shall be removed, 
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea, 
But know, my child, 
My kindness shall not depart from thee! 

Though thine afflictions seem 
At times too great to bear, 
I know thine every thought and every care. 
And though the very jaws 
Of hell gape after thee I am with thee. 

And with everlasting mercy will I succor thee, 
And with healing will I take thee 'neath my wings. 
Though the mountains shall depart, 
And the hills shall be removed, 
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea, 
Know, my child, 
My kindness shall not depart from thee! 

How long can rolling waters 
Remain impure? 
What pow'r shall stay the hand of God? 
The Son of Man hath descended below all things. 
Art thou greater than He? 

So hold on thy way, 
For I shall be with thee. 
And mine angels shall encircle thee. 
Doubt not what thou knowest, 
Fear not man, for he 
Cannot hurt thee. 

And with everlasting kindness will I succor thee, 
And with mercy will I take thee 'neath my wings. 
For the mountains shall depart, 
And the hills shall be removed, 
And the valleys shall be lost beneath the sea, 
But know, my child, 
My kindness shall not depart from thee!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Worth It: The Reshaping of a Mother's Body & Her Heart

I was just telling Sam (while pointing to my tummy) "You are why I have this, but YOU are TOTALLY WORTH IT!  I cannot imagine life without you" and then I tickled his tummy like he likes to tickle mine.  It's true.  Before I had my third I was back to the weight I was in high school and running regularly.  It hasn't been as easy to do with 3 kids and the personality of my beautiful Sammy (as in he SCREAMS at any gym daycare I've tried to leave him at for even 20 mins.)  But that's OK.  Even if I never makes it back to that place physically, I don't mind.  He (and the chance to be a mother to him) is more than worth it.

Anyway, a minute after some tummy-tickling I flipped on the laptop and saw at least 4 of my friends had recommended this beautiful article, "Kate Middleton and the Mom in the Mirror" by Joy Gabriel.  I read it and my eyes filled with "happy tears" as we call them around here, and I was frozen in time, remembering so many similar moments I've had in my life, moments when my clothes didn't fit, and the ones that did were covered with stains, when I was asked if I was expecting (when I WAS NOT) and when because I was working 24-7 on tending sick, crying children I felt I looked more like an embarrassment than the runway model the media screams at women to be.  So I am reposting it (from the Huffington Post) because I want my sons and daughters to know the truths it shares.  It's beautifully written and more of what we need in this world.  It's a little long, but worth every word...

   
A friend of mine was totally shocked to see Kate Middleton's "still pregnant belly" the day after        she gave birth. Sigh. Not only is that what you're SUPPOSED to look like after giving birth, it's        annoying we're even TALKING about WHAT YOUR STOMACH LOOKS LIKE 24 hours after        giving birth.
It's about the baby, not the belly.
My daughter Ruby was pretty obsessed with my belly while I was pregnant. Who can blame her? It is utterly amazing to watch a body shape-shift into a human incubator. Even if you're still a baby yourself and don't fully understand what's happening, you know the two things that really matter: Something's up and It's amazing.
I thought it was all-too-sweet the way she pulled up my shirt to hug and kiss my bare belly and was just devastated if she couldn't kiss "bee-bee" goodnight. I'd pull her close and tell her all about this miraculous thing happening to my body (and to our family!) while we snuggled. They were sweet and tender moments I will always treasure.
Obviously, her fascination with my belly didn't end when we brought her baby brother home. So, I don't know why it surprised me when one of the first things she wanted to do was touch my belly.
"Oh," I laughed, delighted by her curiosity, "the baby came out! No more baby in mama's belly. He came out and he's right over there!"
I don't think she had the slightest idea what I was talking about.
A dozen times a day, she came over to look at my belly, but I tugged my shirt down as fast as I could and tried my best to chirp happily and with a shrug No more baby -- just belly! I knew this was part of her trying to process this whole crazy thing, so I tried to be patient. She eventually got the message (or so I thought) and transferred her curiosity to the new little baby in our midst (she had so much poking to do!).
But then, seemingly out of nowhere, it started up again. She was suddenly consumed with my belly (and boobs! but that's another matter entirely) and my glib little answer wasn't working. She knew all about the baby. She wanted to know what happened to my belly.
Can I be honest with you? I didn't want to talk about it. I didn't even want to think about it.
I was exhausted and emotional and unspeakably overwhelmed by the unceasing demands of a newborn and his (understandably) freaked-out big sister. The last thing I had the energy for was to explain why my belly still looked pretty pregnant even though I wasn't. Or why none of my clothes fit. Or why my belly -- which was once a cause for such sweet and curious bonding -- had suddenly become The Thing Which Shall Not Be Named. Addressing any of that would force me to accept that my body was different now -- I was different now -- and that was kind of a lot to process when I was deep in the throes of just keeping a helpless little person ALIVE.
The persistence of that belly (and so many other vestiges of a rough pregnancy) made me feel like a total failure.
Shouldn't I be more... together?
I wasn't asking to be posing in a bikini on the cover of a magazine two weeks postpartum (because that's 12 ways to Crazytown) and even though I've done this before and should know better I was STILL HOPING that by six weeks postpartum (and now 12, oy) I would at least look like ME. Not, as someone so politely told me when I was pregnant -- me "in a fat suit."
I did not want to face the fact that the lumpy woman in the mirror could in reality be... ME.
So, when Ruby innocently tugged on my shirt to check out the state of things in my midsection, I was in no mood:
No, no, Ruby. No more baby in Mama's belly. Just fat. No baby. FAT. Mama's FAT.
I don't know what it was -- something about the way she looked at me... almost through me... that s l o w e d everything down so that the two, unblinking seconds we stood staring at each other felt like a lifetime --
but I knew she understood.
Not the nuance of my insecurity, of course (all those cultural expectations so much heavier than the baby weight)
But the two things that really mattered: After a belly comes a baby. After the baby comes the shame.
When I saw the look on her face I wanted nothing more than to swallow those words I had so thoughtlessly spit out. The only thing I had to be ashamed of was feeling ashamed of my body.
I thought I was keeping a safe distance from all this "post-baby bod" crap, but it must have snuck in the back door. Honestly, it's pretty hard to escape these days. Not just because it's splashed all over magazines -- but because it's alive and well on my own little street corner too. I ran into a neighbor last week who is currently pregnant with her second child and as we were talking about the fears and challenges that accompany an expanding family... including her constant worry that her body will never be the same again... she gestured to my stomach and said, "Is it weird to still look pregnant after three months?" Of course, I wanted to die right there on the spot, but I laughed and did my best impression of The Person I Want To Be and said, "Well I did just have a baby three months ago."
Because I DID.
I'm not sure when it became the highest compliment you can pay a woman to say, "You look like you never even had a baby!"
...Because I'm supposed to... pretend this never happened? Is my body supposed to pretend it didn't rearrange all my organs and open my rib cage and my hips and grow a new human person who has never existed before and then proceed to feed and nourish that person from the very same body that delivered him, whole and perfect, into the world?
After experiencing something so miraculous that the only real way to describe it is "godlike" ... I'm supposed to want to go BACK?
To what? Being 15?
Even if you somehow manage to look 15 again (which, why would you want to?) you will never BE 15 again (thank heavens). (Matthew Perry movies notwithstanding).
Once you cross the threshold into motherhood, there is no going back. You might feel instantly and with acuity "Help! What did I DO? I'm not ready for this! Get me offa this thing! I don't know what I'm doing!" but it's too late. The curtain is up on the most important role you will ever play and it's OK that you and your body have shifted so that it fits. More: it is right and good. You're not supposed to zip up your old jeans and slip back into your old life.
Babies change us.
It's designed that way.
If our bodies tell the story of who we are, this is a story I don't want to forget.
And that's what I want my Ruby to know.
I dream of a world where a new mother can leave the house in the morning -- in ill-fitting maternity clothes because nothing else fits her large and slowly deflating belly, with greasy hair and puffy eyes from the hours/days/weeks she's been functioning without sleep, with a leaking shirt from her breasts that are constantly churning and adjusting to make just the right amount of milk for the tiny young babe who depends on her for every last thing -- a world where this woman can leave the house with her babies in tow (up and out in the world because her toddler's need for playtime trumped her need for a blow dry. Or a nap)
-- And this woman TURNS OUR HEADS (not out of pity "oh bless her heart") and TAKES OUR BREATH AWAY (not because we think she looks like the "before" picture of an ambush makeover) but because she is LITERALLY The Most Beautiful Thing We've Ever Seen.
She is a superhero
She is a goddess
She is a Mother
Drop-dead gorgeous not in spite of the things that make her so, but because of them.
This is the woman I want my daughter to see when she touches my belly. This is the woman I want to see when I look in the mirror. Not the ugly truth. But the beautiful reality.
It's a thing I'm really struggling with at the moment.
Pregnancy is not easy for me. I'm pretty sure I'm allergic to it because my whole mind and body just kinda freaks out. This last one was brutal and and my body is still shouting that story from the rooftops. Six months of bed rest and 60 lbs, agonizing hormone shots, early labor, depression, migraines, insomnia, stretch marks (just to name a few). I will probably never look or feel quite the same again and that's exactly as it should be. I'm not the same. Bearing children has brought me a wealth of insight and experience I wouldn't trade for the skinniest pair of jeans.
Maybe some mamas can do all this in a size 2 right out the gate and good for ya. But I'd like to stop pretending that's the normal or even ideal thing. For me, there is so much more to mothering than how my pants fit. As a new mom, it shouldn't even CRACK THE LIST, but it does because people stop you on the street and say dumb things motivated out of fear they'll end up looking like you at 12 weeks postpartum.
Well, I'll tell ya something, friend. This is what motherhood looks like at 12 weeks postpartum.
I caught myself in the mirror this morning... and just about burst into tears when I saw that rumpled, lumpy, saggy woman staring back at me. This is not what I'm supposed to look like!
But now that my eyes are dry, I'm ready for a second look. Sure, I can see a What Not To Wear episode waiting to happen. OR I can see a body -- and a person -- who is neither a shabby "Before" picture or a sleek "After" one, but is every inch a walking advertisement for "Just Doing It." I see a woman who knows that makeup is great but making a baby laugh is even better. That a chic haircut will make you feel like a million bucks but rocking a baby to sleep is priceless. That working out feels good but not half as good as the look in your child's eyes when you drop everything to read a book or play kitchen or just be together. That every time you have to choose between worrying about yourself and caring for your children it isn't a choice at all. I see a mother who knows how to dig deep and do the work and carry on when it is almost too heavy to bear.
On my best days, I can see myself. And in those moments, I see the two things that really matter: I can do hard things and doing them in the service of something greater than myself is what makes me beautiful.
Now I'm ready to welcome my babies onto my lap.
Come, my loves. Let me tell you a story. Mama's belly is different because I had a baby. I had you! This is where I stretched and stretched so you could fit inside! See how even my legs and my knees stretched! Everything moved around to make room for you! I got these dimply thighs and these little purple veins and these roomy hips when I got you! Aren't they beautiful?

It's a miracle and it's the greatest story of my life.
(Picture from my 30th birthday last month!)

In a world that questions even having kids anymore (like a recent Times cover,) and in a generation that often belittles the role of nurturer, teacher, and creator of safe havens, I know that creating life is the greatest discovery of all time.  It DOES NOT MATTER that I may still look 3 months pregnant.  I would gladly still choose this body (that walks and runs and washes dishes and drives to parks and libraries and cuddles and hugs) and I would definitely choose having the children this body shaped and made and brought into this world, over any other life I could of had, because God doesn't look at our outward appearance.  He looks on our hearts.  And even though having children has reshaped my body, taking care of my children is reshaping my heart into something more BEAUTIFUL and enduring than any skinny fad or fashion magazine cover.  I do not need to measure up to anyone else's standard of physical perfection, just God's standard of LOVE for others, including my precious rugrats, and myself, "Mom."

'Till Tomorrow!  Luv, Eva

Friday, May 31, 2013

Off To The Pool Through Grandma-Eva's Eyes

Today was the last day of school for my 1st grader Sophia, and the kids have requested that we go to the pool to celebrate.

Currently, I am at least 15 lbs heavier than I want to be.  Really, I would like to be about 30 lbs lighter, but who's countin?. :) Since I've just been trying to stay sane I haven't been focusing as much on losing the weight like I was last spring (when I lost 27 lbs! woo!woo!,) but I'm excited to start working on that again.

Still, today, I am not going to be losing 15 lbs. LOL

Weight is another big issue for me, or size, because most of my life it wasn't.  I was active, healthy, slim and loved it.  it wasn't difficult.  Then I had 3 kids during which I was sick CONSTANTLY.  The only way I wasn't puking was if I had something in my stomach, so I was nibbling on something CONSTANTLY.  Usually breads and crackers.  I know, really nutritious. :)

Now my youngest is almost 2, and it's been hard to curb the eating habits I developed while pregnant, which only worsened with stress, late-night eating while editing photos for my home business (Forget-Me-Not Fotography Like us on Facebook!) and giving in to my husband's poor, mid-west eating habits of cheese, meat and more cheese.  He even (I DO LOVE HIM!) makes his trademark "Fried Cheese."  :) I know I can lose the weight with Weight Watchers (a program I've used before) but I really just want to get to that happy physical place by exercising and eating right and just being accountable to me.

Anyway, along the way I have really not liked being in pictures or swimsuits.  You never realize how big you are until you see yourself in a swimsuit or a picture.  It's like physical evidence of all the binging and poor choices you've made staring back at you.  And those hips don't lie!  I don't think there is an ideal size or that everyone should look the same.  I DON'T.  I just know I can be taking better care of myself.

That all being said, it's important for me to be in pictures with my kids.  I treasure the pictures I have with my own family so much.  So my current mental mantra for finally being a little more comfortable in pictures is "I'll be bigger later."  Let me explain. :)

Since I'm always "planning" on getting in better shape, I've often thought to myself, "I'll be skinnier later so I'll just be in pictures then..."  Has anyone else ever thought that?  Please tell me I'm not the only one.  Well, then one day I was looking at pictures of my mom and me when I was a munchkin and she looked great!

Not that she doesn't now, she's beautiful!  But we do tend to age with age...so it was special to see her younger and looking so alive with us kids.  Even though she, at that point in time, didn't like her hair or was a little self-conscious of her smile, she was smiling anyway.  Making a slideshow of her and us for Mother's Day was so rewarding and only possible because she smiled for the camera (even though she ALSO DID NOT WANT TO BE in the pictures.)  If you would like to see that slideshow it's here (Warning: If you are a mother you might need to have some kleenex ready...)

So I figure, however I look now, whenever in the future I am seeing that picture I WILL LOVE IT!  Compared to future-Eva, I will be younger in today's pictures.  Today's Eva has all her teeth!  My skin will be smoother now than how it is later.  I'm sure the "cottage cheese" I've got now will be nothing compared to later. :) And even if I'm 15 lbs or 30 lbs bigger than I want to be right now, I'm sure someday "I'll be bigger later."  And that's not a bad thing.  There is a season and time for all things, but not for being so self-conscious we don't let ourselves fully live life. :)
I no longer always look at myself through today's-judging-Eva eyes.  I look at myself through Grandma or even Great-Grandma-Eva's eyes.  And according to her, I'm a hottie! :)  Seriously, the old Eva would NOT have wanted a picture with her daughter on the last day of school and I'm SO glad I have that to treasure.

So I'm off to get all ready for the pool.  And I am going to enjoy every moment of it, white legs, farmer's tan and all!  LOL Luv, Eva

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Yesterday Was A Beautiful Day And I Almost Missed It

Yesterday truly was a beautiful day, and I almost missed it.

My heart breaks for all of those who have succumbed to the dark pressures of depression and are no longer with us.  That sentence does not say enough for them, but they are in my thoughts, especially days like today.  I believe some might even be angels, giving me strength and helping me last this long and make it to this great emotional place.

I was able to witness a milestone for little Michael.  He is out of kindergarten and officially a 1st grader!  So technically, I have two 1st graders right now, since Sophia is still in school until Friday.

It's hard to believe that a few weeks ago I was telling my husband I didn't care about being around for any of our children's graduations, weddings, anything...

I am so grateful for friends and family that reminded me of their love for me, and gave me strength.  Don't ever pass up an opportunity to tell someone you love them.  You never know- YOU might be the only person in the world they believe.

To all those having a down day, week or month...or more...think happy thoughts, surround yourself with loving, genuine people and remember that whether or not you feel it or believe it, YOU ARE LOVED, NEEDED and PRICELESS.  Luv, Eva




Slides, Belly-flops & Picking Myself Up Again

I've been editing and posting pictures like crazy of our family activities this past spring, and most recently my kids' school carnival.  (If you'd like to see some please become my "friend" and check 'em out. :))  Since all of our family is at least a state away, Facebook and other photo sharing keeps us connected.

Anyway, I came across some pictures I'd been meaning to write about from some moments with my family that especially inspired me...
 Just kidding about that one!  Although I do have an inspirational Mario Kart moment, but another time...
I meant this one...
 ...and this one.
Little Sam is almost 2, and like most kids his age he does not know how to give up.  Whether it's climbing a mini rock wall, vying for a toy, asking for a treat...he will try and try and try until he gets what he wants accomplished.  Sammy literally slid down this wall (on his adorable, cute, belly) several times before finally making it to the top.  And then he was off to his next challenge!  

There was no "Ok, where's my prize?" or "Now I need my break."  He just KEPT GOING!

Now I'm not saying I never want a break, because I like breaks.  And I'm not saying I don't want a prize because I love prizes!  (Especially chocolate prizes!)  But I am saying that I wan to be more like Sam in my climbing-sliding-climbing endurance skills.  
I want to do a better job of picking myself up again and reaching for the top no matter how many times I belly-flop and slide down.  
Because maybe life isn't about just getting to the top anyway.  Maybe it's more like the slides my kids love, meant to have a high, beautiful view,
 then some descents,

  and then an opportunity to rise again.
 

If that's the case, which every day I believe more and more that it is, I want to enjoy the ride (and slides) a lot more.  Kids have to grow and adapt so much and still find fun along the way, yet I know I make myself out to be the victim when things are hard.  

Does Sammy have a pity-party when he has to try more than once to climb his little mountain?  Nope.  Do Sophia and Michael complain about having to climb the stairs to get to ride down the slide?  Never.  
I love my kids.  As hard as it is to raise them sometimes, they are worth every moment, every minute, every slip, fall, belly-flop, slip and slide I find myself taking along the way.  There are a lot of  other things I could have done with my life, but taking the chance to grow with them is the greatest mountain I've been privileged to climb.  Best of all, they remind me to laugh, keep trying and be silly even in my worst belly-flop moments.  Thanks kiddies.  And thank you Sammy.   
Love, Eva